The fourth and final app that is part of my final project, My Journey in Technology, is the one and only Snapchat. Although I have had this app for at least a year, I wanted to review this app as part of my project to find out a little bit more about the ins and outs of the application, and to take an opportunity to step away from the more serious side of reviewing applications, and have a little fun with the project.
Initially, I had considered the option of using Snapchat in my role as an administrator, and then decided against it for a myriad of reasons. First of all, although I already have quite a few of my staff on Snapchat, I didn’t want the sense of low stress, high hilarity I find on Snapchat with my colleagues to end. Second of all, I didn’t really want to be using Snapchat on a daily basis in front of my students the same way that I use Evernote, Twitter, and Remind. Personal preference was to review this app for fun, so that’s what I did.
Here is what I knew about the app going into the project:
- I knew, obviously, that the purpose of the app was to send pictures to one another that would eventually disappear.
- I knew how to change my story, how to view other people’s stories, and at the time, how to browse through other stories/information mostly on Buzzfeed.
- I knew that filters on Snapchat existed, but the only ones that would ever work for me were the black and white filter, the time filter, and the battery filter.
- When we first started the course, I knew what a Bitmoji was, but I didn’t have one or have any interest in making one.
- I knew that pretty much everyone around me knew more about Snapchat than me.
In the past three months, many things have changed on the app from when I first started using it including:
- The interface itself is different. When I first started using the app, stories looked different, and “discover” didn’t exist to the extent that it does today.
- One can now record longer video clips at a time to send to friends.
- Not only do Bitmoji’s flood my friends list, but the characters themselves have the ability to move, dance, and convey emotion on top of a photo that a friend has taken.
The biggest “aha” moments that I’ve had about the app have really changed the way that I feel about Snapchat and the way that I utilize the app in my personal life.
- The proper term for Snapchat streaks, according to the video posted below is “gamification”. In my research into what Gamification actually is, I began to be quite critical about the idea of streaks. According to coursera.com, “Gamification is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges.” This explains why the act of “streaking” with a friend becomes so highly addictive.
- Snap Maps can do incredible things. I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about the idea of people, especially young people, being tracked using Snapmaps, but I’ve really come to appreciate the feature after reading about and experiencing different ways that the ability to share location has helped people. There are numerous stories about how Snapchat was able to save lives during Hurricane Irma, and similar other natural disasters.
- It is possible to save chats without screenshotting them. This feature is very convenient for me as I am part of a few group chats which I tend to open at the most inconvenient times. Even more important, is the fact that you can then delete the saved chats using the same method of holding the text down until “saved” or “unsaved” appear.
- Different interactive filters are constantly being added to Snapchat, and some of them, by businesses in order to attract business.
Amidst my journey navigating through using the app more frequently in order to gain a better understanding of it, I’ve realized that there are three particular aspects of the app that don’t sit well with me no matter how engaged I become in using Snapchat. They include:
- The ridiculousness of public stories in the Discover section. For example, here’s what my Discover looks like tonight:
My biggest problem with this feature is that, while watching the video “Snapchat Parent Guide” the host explains the purpose of public stories, saying that “companies…post to keep people up to date on whats going on and this is what students say that they like it the most because they can see what’s happening in the world and this, essentially is their news feed.” If this is what students, or anyone for that matter, sees and considers important in terms of what is happening in the world, I worry.
2. The step away from authentic, original, flawed photo sharing that used to exist with the use of Snapchat. With the addition of new filters daily, the amount of edited snaps that I receive in a day continues to multiply. And, I’m not talking about the hilarious filters like this:
I’m talking about the filters that actually change the way that we look in order to make us look more perfect, less flawless, and increasingly fake. Take a look at this example:
You’ll note that my freckles, oily skin, and fuzzy eyebrow in the original, and a smaller neck, clearer skin, and nearly perfect eyebrows in the filtered image. For the sake of impressionable youth around the world, I really wish that filters that make the “real” us look worse than the filtered “us” would be removed. While there is nothing wrong with having fun with filters, I think that individuals find enough ways to compare themselves to others and feel feelings of low self confidence, and in my opinion, filters are supposed to be for enjoyment, not criticism.
With that being said, I do still really enjoy using the app. As I stated in an earlier post, when I began this last semester, I gave up Facebook as a means of wasting less time in my life. Since doing so, it’s been difficult to keep up the lives of my closest friends and family members, and Snapchat has allowed me to still get a taste of what is going on in the lives of those around me. I’ve realized over the last three months that my top 5 uses for Snapchat include:
- Groupchatting with my friends who don’t have iPhones. My closest group of girl friends consists of three women with iPhones, and one without which makes group messaging quite difficult. Snapchat allows me to communicate with all of them together in the same message.
- Sending ridiculous photos, throwbacks, or important information via picture to my brothers.
- Keeping up with what is going on with my niece and younger cousins. Updates on growth and development, scores of hockey games, and important milestones are definitely a highlight of my Snapchat use.
- Taking screenshots of my own snaps. I know that this sounds ridiculous, and I know that the Memories feature on Snapchat now allows for the same opportunity, but I like being able to look back on my snaps and know the purpose, the excitement, or the feeling behind why I sent something. When looking through my screenshots in preparation for this post, images that illuminate how this aspect has been one of my favorites included images of my niece a year ago, a month before her first birthday, images of our yard last April 4th when we cut grass for the first time of the year, and images like this:
5. Snapchat is my quick distraction. The fact that the purpose of the application is to send a quick photo with a short description allows for a quick brain break then I’m right back to being a full time employee and student!
Along the way, I’ve come across some videos that I think are worth sharing with parents, or watching oneself if Snapchat is something you are new to, something you want to know more about, or something you want to utilize to its full capacity. The top 5 videos I’ve found useful during this journey are:
- How to Use Snapchat. Even though the “I got my eye on you” caption pains me as an English teacher, this is a quick introduction to how to use the app in the most basic form.
2. Snapchat App Guide for Parents 2017. For any parents who don’t have the app themselves or who may be questioning their children having the app, this video gives a basic commentary on the features of Snapchat and the main reasons youth may be so interested in engaging in using it.
3. How to Navigate Snapchat’s New Design was a tool I used myself in order to understand how to use some of the new features that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable experimenting with.
4. How Snapchat Will Transform Workplace Communication Skills. Although, as stated earlier, I haven’t been using this app in my profession, I was persuaded of the power of Snapchat in the workplace after watching this video. With that being said, I think that my use of Remind, and my staff’s use of SeeSaw can certainly do the things that Jenkins mentions in the video. However, I was quite interested in the notion that the younger generation’s sense of urgency lends itself well to Snapchat being used as a means of communication at work.
5. How a Handful of Tech Companies Control Billions of Minds Everyday. Tristan Harris’ articulation of attention grabbing tactics used by social media sites allowed for an analysis of my own personal use of Snapchat. The “race for attention” that Harris talks about in the video is shown through gamification, as mentioned above. In addition, gamification is also illuminated through his explanation of how, for those who engage in Snapchat streaks, Snapchat “gave two people something they don’t want to lose…Think of the little blocks of time that schedules in kids minds.” For me, these blocks of time scheduled in my mind are when I wake up, when I have a few free seconds, and are far more frequent on weekends when I am curious to see what those around me are engaging in for entertainment. This TedTalk is definitely worth viewing when analyzing the power of social media and the mind.
We can’t grow if we don’t step outside of our comfort zones, can we?